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Thursday July 18th 2024

Octopussy | 1983

Octopussy filming location: The Lake Palace Hotel, Udaipur, India
Octopussy location: Octopussy’s floating palace: The Lake Palace Hotel, Udaipur, India | Photograph: Wikimedia / Antoine Taveneaux

This minor Bond has an impenetrably daft plot (Rogue Soviet General Orlov attempts to trigger WW3 by swapping Fabergé eggs for a nuclear weapon. In a circus), but is glossily photographed on exotic – as well as some not-so-exotic – locations. It didn't seem to be damaged by competing at the box office with Sean Connery's return to the role of 007 in alt-Bond Never Say Never Again.

The pre-credits teaser takes place in one of those interchangeable Latin American dictatorships presided over by a clone of Fidel Castro, here attending a race meet at an air force base.

Far from Cuba, the base is Northolt Aerodrome, a Royal Air Force station in Ruislip, West London. Not far from 007’s base at Pinewood Studios, Northolt also hosted filming for parts of the Sean Connery-era mainstream Bond movies Goldfinger and Thunderball.

When Bond’s infiltration of the base is rumbled, he makes his exit using a dinky little fold-away plane stashed in a horsebox and is soon soaring over barren desert that’s clearly not west of London. The landscapes are those of southwest Utah.

He swoops beneath the Virgin River Arch Bridge, carrying Highway 9 across the Virgin River between La Verkin and Hurricane, northeast of St George. This 1937 steel-arch bridge was renovated in 2004 and joined by a more modern bridge which runs alongside. The area around St George was once used for nuclear testing, and was the site of the ill-fated filming of 1955 epic The Conqueror, with John Wayne as Genghis Khan.

The hangar, through which Bond flies, was part of RAF Oakley, another Royal Air Force station, between Oxford and Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire. It closed in 1945 but retained a well-preserved B1 hangar, now used as commercial premises. Yes, it’s still there – a miniature was blown up. You can see The Hangar, which now houses Natural Building Technologies, west of Worminghall Road, between the villages of Oakley and Worminghall.

The story proper begins with Agent 009, dressed as a circus clown, being chased through an ‘East German’ forest by a pair of knife-throwing identical twins. Not surprisingly, the forest is familiar old Black Park Country Park, which stands conveniently alongside Pinewood Studios in Buckinghamshire and has consequently appeared in countless productions.

When the wounded agent plunges into a weir, this is Orton Lock, just west of Nene Parkway (the A1260) on the River Nene, west of Peterborough, Cambridgeshire. Quite a few scenes were filmed in this area since the production makes extensive use the Nene Valley Railway.

It’s back to Pinewood as 009 makes it to the ‘Residence of the British Ambassador’, crashing through the French window and collapsing to the floor clutching a glittering Fabergé egg.

The residence is another old favourite – Heatherden Hall, the country mansion at the heart of the Buckinghamshire estate which was developed to become Pinewood Studios. You can recognise it in plenty of productions, including as SPECTRE HQ in the second Bond film, From Russia With Love, and and ‘Chayste Place’, the girls’ school in Carry On Camping, one of the best of another long-running Pinewood series.

Octopussy filming location: Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich, London SE10
Octopussy location: the ‘Russian National Fine Art Repository’: Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich, London SE10

In the ‘Russian National Fine Art Repository’, General Orlov (London fringe theatre stalwart Steven Berkoff) is engaged in replacing the country’s national treasures with fakes in order to fund his nefarious activities by selling of the real articles. The collection is reached via the entrance to the Undercroft of the Chapel at the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich, London SE10 – you can’t mistake the four chunky chimneys of Greenwich Power Station in the background.

The grounds of the old Naval College have proved amazingly adaptable over the years, in Les Misérables, Cruella, The Dark Knight Rises, Thor: The Dark World, The Golden Compass and many, many more.

Octopussy filming location: the Old War Office Building, Whitehall, London SW1
Octopussy location: Bond is introduced to Miss Smallbone at MI6 HQ: the Old War Office Building, Whitehall, London SW1

As in John Glen’s two other Bond films (Licence To Kill and A View To A Kill), MI6 HQ, where Bond (Roger Moore) is introduced to Moneypenny’s assistant Miss Smallbone, is the Old War Office Building, Whitehall at Horse Guards Avenue, London, SW1. Part of the Westminster centre of government, the War Office was abolished in 1964 but the building continued to be used by the Ministry of Defence until 2016 when it was sold for conversion to become – guess what? – a luxury hotel and residential apartments.

The jewel-encrusted egg carried by 009 turns out to be a fake and secret service suspicions are aroused when the genuine article is put up for sale at auction in London.

Where else would a Fabergé treasure be on sale but at prestigious auction house Sotheby’s, 34-35 New Bond Street, London, W1. The anonymous seller lists it as ‘The property of a lady’, title of the Ian Fleming short story which inspired the sequence.

The interior of the auctioneers was built at Pinewood, but that's the real exterior outside which Bond sees successful bidder Kamal Khan (Louis Jourdan), slipping off with his prize into a waiting car.

Bond decides to tail Kamal to ‘Delhi’, but the geography goes a bit wonky here as his ‘copter is seen taking the picturesque route past the Taj Mahal in Agra (presumably to signal India), before touching down several hundred miles away on the northern tip of Lake Pichola in Udaipur.

He transfers to a boat which takes him to Gangaur Ghat, the wide stretch of steps leading down to the lake’s shore, where he recognises his contact Vijay (pro tennis player Vijay Amritraj), who happens to be playing Monty Norman’s James Bond Theme as he charms a cobra.

Yes, like Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom, this is very much Hollywood’s India of snake charmers, fakirs, sword-swallowers and eyeball feasts.

Udaipur, formerly the capital of the Mewar Kingdom in the western state of Rajasthan, is a magnificently photogenic city built around a series of artificial lakes and known for its lavish royal residences.

In fact, from Gangaur Ghat, it’s barely a step south to the luxurious Hotel Shiv Niwas Palace, in which Bond is staying.

The hotel is part of City Palace, monumental complex of 11 palaces, courtyards and gardens, on the northeastern shore of Lake Pichola.

A tuk-tuk chase through a Udaipur market gives Vijay gets the chance to duel with the bad guys using tennis raquets, ending up outside one of the city’s major attractions, the Jagdish Temple, a large Hindu temple originally the temple of Jagannath Rai but now called Jagdish-ji.

Just offshore stands another palace which has been transformed into a hotel, the Taj Lake Palace, which becomes the skimpily-clad-women-only ‘Floating Palace’ of smuggler Octopussy (Maud Adams).

Udaipur is featured again in 2011's The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, and the Taj Lake Palace can be seen from the roof terrace of the hotel where the British holidaymakers gather for drinks toward the end of the film.

Octopussy filming location: Monsoon Palace Sajjan Garh, Udaipur, India
Octopussy location: Bond witnesses an ominous meeting at Kama's retreat: Monsoon Palace Sajjan Garh, Udaipur, India | Photograph: Wikimedia / Im Pyadav

A couple of miles west, on a hill overlooking Sajjan Garh Biological Park, the Monsoon Palace Sajjan Garh is used as the retreat of Kamal, where the captive Bond witnesses an ominous meeting between Kamal and General Orlov.

The enterprising Octopussy has expanded her business interests to include shipping, hotels and – erm – circuses. Perhaps there may be a clown-knifethrower connection?

When Bond discovers that Octopussy’s circus is due to play Karl Marx Stadt in East Berlin, he immediately heads for the German capital.

Bond is briefed as he’s driven along Kurfürstendamm, the main shopping drag of what was then West Berlin, dominated by the ruined spire of Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church. Damaged by Allied raids in 1943, the spire of the church is preserved in its truncated state as a reminder of the suffering of the city during WWII. It’s known locally as 'der Hohle Zahn' – 'The Hollow Tooth'.

Octopussy filming location: Checkpoint Charlie, Friedrichstrasse, Berlin
Octopussy location: Bond crosses into the Eastern Sector: Checkpoint Charlie, Friedrichstrasse, Berlin

In the guise of a furniture sales rep, Bond crosses into the Eastern Sector via the one-time crossing point into East Germany, Checkpoint Charlie.

Checkpoint Charlie (or Checkpoint C, the name coming from the letter C in the NATO phonetic alphabet) was the name given by the Western Allies to the best-known Berlin Wall crossing point between East and West during the Cold War.

It stood at the junction of Friedrichstraße with Zimmerstraße and Mauerstraße in the Friedrichstadt district. Although none of the original structures remain at the site, there are plenty of tourist attractions and photo-ops. The checkpoint building itself has been relocated to the Allied Museum, Clayallee 135 in Berlin-Zehlendorf.

There’s actually little of the real Germany on show. The rail stop where the cache of jewels is hidden in the circus carriage is the Nene Valley Railway Yard at Wansford Station.

The Nene Valley Railway, a preserved line in Cambridgeshire, runs seven and a half miles west from Peterborough Nene Valley to Yarwell Junction. It was one of the last passenger lines closed in the Sixties during the notorious cuts presided over by Dr Beeching. In 1974, the line was bought up and leased to the Peterborough Railway Society.

The railway also appeared in the 1995 Bond movie GoldenEye, as well as in 1983 spy spoof Top Secret, with Val Kilmer, Peter’s Friends and Biggles.

The tunnel in which the carriage is swapped for one containing a nuclear bomb, is toward the western end of the line where it runs under the B671, Eldon Road, south of Wansford.

Commandeering Orlov’s Mercedes to follow the train, Bond’s tyres are soon shredded by spikes. Undeterred he steers the car onto the rail lines and rides on the rims. He turns onto the tracks at the level crossing on the Old Great North Road, just east of the main A1.

Immediately alongside is the Nene Valley Bridge, from which Orlov’s car plunges into the River Nene after colliding with an oncoming train.

Although there are several shots of the roads around Berlin during the ensuing chase, the tiny 'German' town square, to which Bond gets a lift and where he steals a car, was a set built at Pinewood, based on the market place at Braunfels, where you will actually find the Hotel Zum Solmser Hof.

As the countdown to disaster ticks away, Bond finally makes it to the ‘Feldstadt US Air Force Base’ where, dressed as a clown, he has only seconds to defuse the nuclear device.

In fact, the facility was yet another RAF base, this time at Upper Heyford, between Oxford and Banbury in Oxfordshire. The base closed in the Nineties, but lives on as a screen location more recently seen as the refugee camp in Alfonso Cuarón’s 2006 Children Of Men.